Monday, February 27, 2012

Book Review - Crossing the Creek


February was the first month that our book club met and agreed unanimously about disliking what we read, a book called Crossing the Creek: the literary friendship of Zora Neale Hurston and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.  It wasn’t that the subject wasn't interesting; just the book itself was poorly written.  We assume that the author, Anna Lillios, took her lecture notes and threw the book together.  For one thing, the text and quotations are repeated in multiple places throughout the manuscript.  And there are footnotes (just page numbers of printed volumes) throughout our books without a proper appendix.  Where is the editor?  I thought every published work had an editor!

Hurston at a Federal Writer's Project exhibit in 1938.


Both women write about the Florida "Cracker" society, people who lived off the water for centuries.  Personally, I have never heard of Zora Hurston before.  The rest of the ladies in my book club had; they are better read than I...  She was an African-American raised in the Florida Everglades, in an all-black town called Eatonville.  Some of her most famous books are Their Eyes were Watching God and Dust Tracks on the Road.   

I think most readers are familiar with Marjorie Rawlings for her Pulitzer prize-winning novel, The Yearling.  She was born in Washington, D.C. and lived for 10 years with her first husband in New York.  Then in 1928, the couple purchased a 72-acre orange grove near Hawthorne, Florida, in a hamlet called Cross Creek.  The farmhouse is now designated a National Historic Landmark - it might be an interesting place to visit!    

Lillios tells us she is going to write about the women’s friendship, but only mentions the two together in a sentence once or twice.  After reading Crossing the Creek, I think it would be interesting to read Hurston’s and Rawlings' later works, when their writing styles and subjects had evolved.  Both women had the same editors from Scribner, first Maxwell Perkins and then Burroughs Mitchell, who were unwilling to accept any style changes.  (BTW:  Hurston became obsessed with the life of King Herod and Rawlings started writing dark short stories, what she called "queer" stories).  Our book club thought that the women's correspondence, archived at the University of Florida, would be an interesting dialog to read and discuss.


(sidenote)  I was looking around for some illustrations when I ran into this book, and was struck by the cover art.  I know this illustration was drawn by Don Blanding, a native son of my city.  I spent about a year researching Blanding (poet and artist), before we exhibited his life's work at our museum.  He graduated from Lawton High School in 1912 and married a woman in Ft. Pierce, Florida in 1940 (but divorced a few years later).  And he was a friend of Rawlings.  Took me by surprise! 

7 comments:

Sarah~Magnolia Surprise said...

Interesting post -- at least you read the book to its end! Sounds like it might be worthwhile to read books by Rawlings and Hurston though.

memoriesforlifescrapbooks said...

That's a bummer you didn't enjoy the book.
But how cool to find the other book and make the connection back to your town!

Nancy said...

Ek- sorry to hear that you didn't like it, and that even worse it was due to poorly written text! I really can't get through a book like that, I commend you for suffering through it!

FabricFascination said...

I've heard of the Yearling, and Their Eyes were watching God, but don"t think I've read either one.

BeadedTail said...

That's too bad the book was so poorly written. It's interesting you found a connection to your city too!

Kathleen said...

Bummer - hard to read a book all the way through when it is poorly written. I have a hard time doing that...

Linda Pruitt said...

I was wondering why you didn't like it, now I know. Don't think I will read it. And that is an interesting fact about the book cover illustration! Fun fact.

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